How an early bird IT entrepreneur started with Rs 3k and built a Rs 55 crore turnover company
A computer-crazy teenager, Abhishek Rungta grew up to become founder and CEO, Indus Net Technologies – a company with a turnover of Rs 55 crore – in just two decades.
Abhishek, now 39, started his business literally with a 50-rupee note in his pocket in 1997. Headquartered in Kolkata, Indus Net Technologies is now a premier web development and digital marketing company with more than 700 employees and a hundred-strong clientele.
Abhishek Rungta, CEO, Indus Net Technologies hails from a middle class family and started with an investment of Rs 3,050 (Photos: Monirul Islam Mullick)
Its clients range from Fevicol to Fox Sports, LG to Renault, and SBI General Insurance to Unilever, among others such as India Axis Bank, Indus In, CIPLA, Govt. of India, Adani Group, Foreign AGEAS Insurance, TESCO, Bank of America and Mercedes Benz.
Born to a middle-class Marwari family with just another sibling – his sister Ankita – Abhishek was taken along by his father, a jute trader, on many of his business trips.
It taught the young boy how to keep accounts, manage costs, and be customer-centric. “The seeds of entrepreneurship were planted in my mind then,” says Abhishek, sitting at his plush office in Salt Lake.
“It helped me to understand the nitty-gritty of business, the day-to-day problems faced by entrepreneurs and ways to solve them.”
At South Point School, where he studied, he joined the self-improvement oriented Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award programme in class VIII, which taught him leadership and initiative.
At home, he spent hours upon hours on his 486 Intel machine that his father bought him when he was 17. After completing his Class XII in 1996, he went to study B.Com at St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, where his classes began at 6 a.m. and wound up by 9.30 am.
On a friend’s advice, in his first year, he also took up a job at the firm Shah and Choudhary as a direct sales agent selling loans for Citibank for Rs 2,250 a month.
“The stint taught me valuable lessons in selling, which would later help me in setting up my own company,” says Abhishek.
1997 was a milestone year. A road accident became a life-changing incident. “I had to quit my job in the bank as the doctor advised bed-rest,” says Abhishek. He went back to his passion, never leaving his 486 Intel except to go to the loo.
Around 750 employees work with Indus Net Technologies
“I learnt so much during that period,” he says, “and honed my programming and designing skills.” In the same year, the Duke of Edinburg visited Kolkata as part of a tour to commemorate India’s Independence and to give away the year’s DofE awards.
Abhishek was one of the recipients of the award for all-round development and curricular activities. The organisers asked him to make an animated video about the activities of DofE in the city, which the Duke appreciated.
Boosted by the positive response, Abhishek decided to do something of his own. “I was confident of web designing, which was a new concept then,” he recounts.
He went to an IT exhibition at Ballygunge (south Kolkata) looking to hire a stall to offer IT services – web hosting and web designing. Someone offered to sublet half his stall to him at Rs 6,000, but he didn’t have that much money.
“I then took the help of my friend Hriday Biyani, who was also interested in computers, and we both took up the half stall and paid Rs 3,000 each.
Indus has delivered more than 11,000 projects and has clients in India, UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Singapore
“After hiring the stall, I was yet to decide the name of my company,” says Abhishek. “I went outside to eat, at a restaurant called Indus Valley.” It was the aha moment. He borrowed the name from there and printed leaflets naming his company ‘Indus Internet Technology’.
“I spent Rs 50 in printing them and that was my investment in starting the company,” he says. Luck shone on him and he bagged four orders of web designing and web hosting during the exhibition.
“Web hosting is loading a website on a server and there were few private players in this business at that time,” says Abhishek, “so we had the opportunity to grow. I bought web hosting space for Rs 22,000 in 1997.”
Soon he realised that the price was just around Rs 6,000 in the US for the same. “I struck gold by buying the web hosting from the US and selling here, keeping a minimal profit,” says Abhishek.
“Our company had become a private limited company, renamed Indus Net Technologies, and we engaged resellers to sell web hosting from 1998-1999. The model worked and I made massive profits.”
Working out of his father’s 600 sq ft office at Clive Row in north Kolkata, Abhishek slogged alone for a whole year before hiring an assistant. By 1998, he was running one of the largest web hosting companies in the country, with a turnover of Rs 10 lakh.
After completing his graduation in 1999, he decided to pursue a year-long Masters degree in Multimedia Technology in the UK. “I handed over the reins of the company to my younger sister Ankita who was 18 then, but had picked up the skills of the business from me,” Abhishek shares.
Indus offer services in web applications, mobile apps, digital marketing, cloud infra and analytics
Leaving lucrative job offers behind, Abhishek returned after his course to carry the business forward. The year 2000 saw a global recession and Abhishek felt that the decision to return was a mistake as there was hardly any work available.
Once again, he took refuge in the Internet, spending hours on it the way he had done years ago. “I came in contact with foreign companies who were looking for people in web designing and programming,” says Abhishek.
Once again, he worked hard to get clients and achieved a turnover of around Rs 13 crore by 2008, with a strong clientele base of 3,000 small companies in India and abroad whom he served with 300 employees.
It was smooth sailing until 2012 when some of his employees broke away, hijacking some of the client base and several employees, making Indus Net lose Rs five crore of businesss. Abhishek decided to change the working model of his company and began to deal with big enterprises and agencies.
“At present, we work with big companies and agencies and take high-value orders,” he says. “We have around hundred clients, who give us good business every year. We have around 750 employees and offer services in web applications, mobile apps, digital marketing, cloud infra and analytics.”
Indus Net Technologies has also acquired two companies – Indus Net Techshu, Influx ERP - and invested in another joint venture in the last one year by spending around Rs five crore.
Abhishek with longtime friend and business associate Bharat Berlia
“The acquisition has added energy, digitalization and skills aspects to technology,” says Abhishek. His long-time friend Bharat Berlia also merged his mobile development company (which he had been running as a joint venture with Abhishek, with a turnover of around Rs 10 crore) with Indus Net.
With its presence in India, UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Singapore, and a portfolio of more than 11,000 projects delivered, Indus Net is just getting bigger and better every day.
And all the credit goes to the teenager who made his passion his business, and his business his passion.